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Wellness Specialists Foster Cancer Screening and Healthy Lifestyle

Wellness Specialists Foster Cancer Screening and Healthy Lifestyle

SAN DIEGO, California—Screenings and a healthy life style are
critical parts of cancer prevention, and, to that end, some nurse practitioners
at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Prevention and Wellness Program
have been given a novel assignment: They are wellness specialists.

It is a role well suited to nurse practitioners, said Bernadette McGovern,
RN, ANP, MSN, OCN, one of the new wellness specialists. She presented material
about the program at a poster session of the Oncology Nursing Society’s 26th
Annual Congress (abstract 226).

"A nurse practitioner’s training focuses on health education and
prevention," Ms. McGovern told ONI. "I think we are different from
doctors in that we really are focused at looking at people’s lifestyles and
behaviors, and motivating them to change. We’re ideally trained for

Each patient at the Wellness Program has a consultation with a nurse
practitioner. The nurse assesses which cancer screening tests are needed and
whether medical follow-up, nutritional counseling, smoking cessation, or
genetic counseling may be appropriate. On average, nurse practitioners make up
to four recommendations per patient.

Of 600 patients seen since the program started 2 years ago, 37% were found
to have at least one positive finding, according to information gathered by Ms.
McGovern and her colleagues.

As a wellness specialist, Ms. McGovern functions independently and
collaboratively. "I can refer patients if they need to be seen by a
doctor, and I can follow the patients who have problems," she said.

She also does outreach. "A lot of our efforts are in community
education," Ms. McGovern said. "In New York, I can go out to
organizations like the United Nations and companies like American Express and
Colgate-Palmolive. We liaison with their health departments. I’ll do an
overview on cancer prevention and educate people about risk factors, nutrition,
sun exposure, family history, etc, and the different types of screening


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